That’s what drew Sally Witt’s attention when she attended Birmingham’s Festival of Lights in the 1980s.
“Looking at the city lit up in lights, I went ‘holy cow, why don’t we do something like this in Howell?'” Witt said.
She reached out to the Howell Chamber of Commerce and the rest is history.
Thanks to Witt, Howell has had the Fantasy of Lights for the past 38 years. The parade takes place on the Friday after Thanksgiving every year.
To achieve her vision, Witt ordered white lights from New York and asked every business owner in Howell’s downtown to decorate their storefront.
The first year, Witt said, there were just a couple floats and the Pinckney High School marching band. The next year, that all changed.
“The next year we had a boatload of people,” she said. “All the schools joined in, we had all the bands, the marching bands,” she said. “It just grew… it just grew, it was beautiful.”
But for the support of the community and local business owners, the event would not be a staple nearly four decades later, she said.
“I think it’s to the community’s credit because if people weren’t willing to do something special, it wouldn’t be special. But everybody had been so cooperative. It has been grand,” Witt said. “I was grateful that everyone was willing to put up lights so we could look like a fantasy town.”
Parades and holiday events are important for communities because they bring people together, she said.
“I think that every community needs to do something, especially in today’s world, something that will bring everyone together,” Witt said. “Politics aside, everything aside, we are all in this together and it’s a good thing for us to work together.”
Witt has yet to miss a Fantasy of Lights parade, but said she is a little worried about the future of parades in Livingston County.
“We used to be the community of parades,” she said. “I don’t know if that is going to continue.”
Witt has been a real estate agent in Livingston County for nearly 50 years and started the Livingston County Concert Band in the 1970s.
She said she doesn’t plan to slow down.
“I don’t know how to knit and I don’t have a rocker,” Witt said.
Contact Kayla Daugherty at 517-552-2848 or [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @KayDaugherty92.